An inmate at the Menard Correctional Center filed a civil rights complaint in federal court against the Illinois Department of Corrections alleging he was forcefully restrained in order to have his dreadlocks cut off.
Derrick Echols claims that on March 23, 2005, after arriving at Menard he was placed in segregation because of his hairstyle. He claims he was told he would be forcefully restrained by the tactical unit if he did not comply with Menard's grooming policy that does not allow dreadlocks.
Echols, 26, is serving a life sentence for a murder that took place in Peoria in January of 2001.
According to Echols, he did not comply with the policy due to certain religious beliefs. He claims he is a Rastafarian or Rasta man.
Echols claims he told prison officials that he would not allow them to shame him over his religious beliefs, however he claims an officer at the institution told him his religion does not make a difference because dreadlocks are not allowed in the prison.
Echols claims about two hours later, the "orange crush" or tactical team arrived at his cell and asked him one last time if he wanted to cut his hair voluntarily. Citing his religious beliefs, he refused.
According to Echols' handwritten complaint, he was then ordered to "cuff up." He complied and was escorted acuffed to away to a place where prison officials proceeded to forcefully cut his hair.
"The trimmers were cutting and biting my scalp and made my head bleed a little bit," Echols writes.
He also wrote, "I has razor burns and bites and bumps because of the excessive force used upon my head. As they were cutting my dreadlocks I felt a lot of pain in my scalp because the clippers was snagging and pulling stands of hair out."
Echols claims after his haircut he has scars on his head and his scalp constantly itches. He also claims he asked to see the doctor, which was allegedly never provided, because he was having nightmares of the orange crush taking him for his hair cut.
"I'm seeking compensation for emotional and mental physical pain and anguish," Echols writes.
He also claims he does not appreciate that the prison policy against dreadlocks is over concersn that they could be used to hide contraband.
Echols does not state an amount he wishes to be compensated, however he also is asking the court to review the policy because other inmates are also being forced to have their hair cut to be in compliance with the grooming policy.
The case has been assigned to District Judge James Foreman.